20 Jun '12, 1pm
Drumbeat: June 20, 2012
The talk is of "peak stuff": that beyond a certain level of economic development, people simply stop consuming so much. Technology and the course of economic evolution allow prosperity to keep rising without a linked increase in our use of energy and materials. Our demands on planetary resources stabilise - and ultimately begin to fall. Others are unconvinced, seeing in peak stuff a dangerous myth and a thinly veiled excuse to abandon efforts to limit our planetary impact. Without large-scale intervention to curb our excesses now, they argue, peak stuff, if it exists, will be too little, too late. So who is right? Is humanity really about to lose its appetite for stuff - and if so, will it help? Predictions such as those of Malthus and Ehrlich fell down on a simple point: they failed to see what came next. Malthus missed the industrial revolution and its ways of mass produ...